SBLOs Often Get a Bad Rap

| July 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

Supplier diversity directors and SBLO’s often get a bum rap.  In theory, SBLO’s are directed to influence, inspire and integrate diversity inclusion programs within large organizations – but many times, the organization’s “program” doesn’t have the necessary “teeth in it”  to implement a program that will ultimately succeed.  And by succeed, I mean compliance goals and initiatives are implemented, enforced and realizable.

isaac-newton-new My message today is an important one – so for all you naysayers, please don’t shoot the messenger!

I’m a small business CEO who has been marketing our corporation, Progressive Industries, Inc. to invaluable SBLO executives for nearly 30 years.  I think I’ve seen it all.  They come in all shapes and sizes with various titles, program guidelines, corporate agendas and teams that they work with.  Powerful organizations have SBLO’s that are charged with integrating small businesses into their supply chain – but I’m here to tell you – it starts at the top.  If the CEO is not “all in” on inspiration, integration and implementation of their inclusion program, it’s a recipe for non-compliance and failure.

These programs serve a valuable purpose.  Their purpose is to allow small businesses to successfully participate in opportunities – where usually only majority corporations (Fortune 500’s) play.  If not for these imperative programs, there would be no small businesses involved at the top level of majority corporate America.  There would be no small businesses creating jobs and stimulating the economy.   Imperatives include setting up realizable expectations and putting together pragmatic rules of engagement that are monitored and enforced.   Without enforcement – the program fails, small businesses fail and frankly, so will Middle Class America.  Don’t forget where we came from – without a Middle class – Americans lose a large portion of economic growth within our free and glorious United States!

Small businesses are SMALL, but that does not mean that we are incapable.  Many of us work hard, employ many people, invest in our locations, our infrastructure, our community and our teams – all of this is economic stimulation.  Our stereotypical bum rap is that we are often considered “guilty until proven innocent”.  The SBLO’s can be fighting an uphill battle within sectors to change that mind set and the behaviours associated with it.  It’s not easy to win them over and encourage them to sanction small business participation.  First reactions vary anywhere from – ignoring the directive, adversity to change, spouting about the “last time they tried that and it failed” or it’s just easier to do it the way they’ve always done it.

Talk about a set up for failure.  SBLO’s are cheerleaders, community activists, inspirational executive speakers in supply chain and they are charged with executing and ensuring the ultimate success of the program.  I am inspired by their sense of community awareness and their selfless and generous efforts.  Unfortunately, theirs can be a daunting task if the “C level” executive leadership is not drinking the inclusion kool-aid.  SBLO’s are imparting and influencing the very idea of inclusion but could be swimming upstream against the current for actual “buy-in” without support of the objective and deliverables, once again I iterate, from the top…….

Supplier diversity inclusion is an imperative in best business practice in Public and Private sectors in America.  This is keeping small businesses alive.  When do the programs work best?  My experience has been – when leadership is giving the directive to make it happen and they have a top-notch SBLO who is given the resources necessary to implement it – that’s the recipe for success and it’s a Win/Win/Win!  Programs are not all created equal and it’s not a perfect solution – but it’s a great initiative toward economic success for all.

I encourage leaders and CEO’s across the country to listen to their SBLO’s.  Hear them and give them the indispensable tools in their toolbox to succeed for the good of the organization.  Without it – you’re paying high-powered executives to spend their days exercising in futility and your program will fail.  Best practices show that the programs work and small businesses succeed when the rules of engagement are strongly encouraged and enforced.  Everything other than this, is just smoke and mirrors.  It would be great if people did the right thing, just because, but it doesn’t always work that way.  The path of least resistance is often the road most traveled.

Category: Editorials

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